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Rebuilding Small Farm Livelihoods

during the Dry Season

ASEAN Volunteers’ Experience

ASEAN People-Centred Case Study in Southeast Asia April 2009

This case study highlights how the distribution of agricultural inputs and the
construction of small-scale infrastructure priorities helped improve agricultural
productivity and livelihood incomes in six villages of Tha Leik Gyi village tract in Pyapon
district, Ayeyarwady Delta. It also features how the ASEAN Volunteers’ involvement
fostered a shared sense of responsibility among the communities.

Through this effort of volunteerism from ASEAN member countries, the villagers were
encouraged to continuously participate in mass meetings that ensured commitment
and help promote an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community in the region. The key
outcomes and lessons learned reiterates that the distribution of farm inputs and
development of small-scale infrastructures could stimulate agricultural productivity
in the Cyclone Nargis-affected areas and facilitate early livelihood recovery for
small-plot farmers and landless households. With a community-led approach,
the formation of informal village committees and engagement of villagers helped
strengthen community solidarity towards medium-term sustainability of the small-
scale infrastructures built.
When Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady and Yangon Divisions in early May
2008, it left in its wake a devastated agriculture sector– encompassing crops,
plantations, livestock and fisheries. The TCG Post-Nargis Joint Assessment
(PONJA) indicates that “the agricultural sector generated close to 45 per
cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007, and about a
third of the regional GDP of the cyclone-affected divisions. The sector is The TCG Post-Nargis Recovery and
the mainstay of the rural economy in the Ayeyarwady Delta area. About 30 Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) indicates
per cent and 20 per cent of the rural population in Ayeyarwady and Yangon that “Food insecurity is not only linked
to recovery of pre-cyclone agricultural
Divisions respectively are landless; they rely on fishing, home gardens and
production (crops, fisheries, livestock
agricultural casual labour for their livelihoods”. and forestry) but also to non-agriculture
elements of Livelihoods (Chapter III).
The PONJA also determines “the immediate need to address Hence, recovery activities will focus
assistance on seeds, fertilizer, agricultural
the likelihood of production losses due to erosion and equipment and tools, fishing gear,
damage to paddy land, low viability of rice seed, loss of livestock, poultry, forestry re-planting,
as well as identifying opportunities for
draught animals and farm equipment, farmers’ inability increasing household incomes through
to afford appropriate fertilizer purchases, and the reduced rehabilitation of community shelters,
community infrastructure, and as
availability of labour due to home rebuilding requirements, appropriate, rebuilding of small-scale health
and out-migration of casual labour”. and education facilities. Of necessity, the
agriculture-related interventions will have
to be supported by basic extension services
In order to build trust and confidence in delivering post-Nargis humanitarian
resourced to do so”.
relief and recovery efforts; a Tripartite Core Group (TCG) comprised of senior
representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the
Government of the Union of Myanmar, and the international humanitarian ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)
community led by the United Nations (UN); was constituted. The primary goal of the ASEAN
Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) is
In fulfillment of its mandates, the TCG, under the ASEAN component, enlisted to contribute to realising an ASEAN
the expertise of the International Development Enterprises–Myanmar Community that is people-centred
(IDE/M), an international non-government organisation, which is involved and socially responsible with a view to
in rural livelihoods and food security development in Myanmar since 2004. achieving enduring solidarity and unity
Before Cyclone Nargis, IDE/M implements livelihood projects in 105 townships among the nations and peoples of ASEAN
by forging a common identity and building
in Myanmar. Its post-cyclone emergency response provided safe drinking
a caring and sharing society which is
water and emergency shelter to over 68,000 households in the Ayeyarwady inclusive and harmonious where the
Delta. IDE/M’s longer-term recovery activities involves undertaking farm well-being, livelihood, and welfare of the
recovery activities in more than 58,000 small-plot monsoon paddy farm peoples are enhanced.
The ASCC is characterised by a culture of
Consistent with the ASEAN’s People-Centred approach, six ASEAN volunteers regional resilience, adherence to agreed
from Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines were deployed in Tha Leik principles, spirit of cooperation, collective
responsibility, to promote human
Gyi village tract, Pyapon district in an effort to promote an ASEAN Socio-
and social development, respect for
Cultural Community in the region and to support the villagers in project fundamental freedoms, gender equality,
implementation. the promotion and protection of human
rights and the promotion of social justice.

Source: Excerpt from Characteristics and

Elements, Blueprint for the ASEAN Socio-
Cultural Community (2009-2015)
The Project
Building on the success factors and lessons learned from the
Community-based Early Recovery project in Seik Gyi Village in
Kungyangon, the TCG-endorsed project in Tha Leik Gyi village
tract, Pyapon district aims to address the immediate
needs of cyclone-affected small-plot farms and
landless households – the sectors rendered most
vulnerable by the cyclone – as well as to equip
the villages for medium-term community growth
through infrastructure development from mid-
December 2008 to April 2009.

The project is designed to help farm households

who depend mainly on a productive dry season
yield for the sustainability of their livelihoods.
It focuses on the distribution of agricultural inputs to assist in
reducing the dependency of the villagers on food aids. As food aid-
oriented relief efforts in the Delta region were gradually superseded
by livelihood recovery initiatives, the project aims to help the
villagers empower themselves in improving their household food

Trial drip irrigation system

demonstrated (above) contributed to

In close coordination with IDE/M and ASEAN Pyapon hub staff, the ASEAN reduce risks to leaf diseases and pest
volunteers provided support in facilitating the distribution of livelihood infestations at a lower cost.
packages and the construction of small-scale infrastructures to six villages of
Tha Leik Gyi village tract; namely Tha Leik Gyi, Tha Leik Kalay, Tha Leik Chaung,
Tha Leik Too Myaung, Mae Nyo, and Poe Swar. The project activities entailed
a total cost of 193,731 USD.

Coinciding with the project objective of providing income generating

opportunities for cyclone-affected landless labourers through infrastructure- The TCG Social Impacts Monitoring (SIM)
the project undertook several small-scale
building activities, validates the project in its findings that
“village economies remain depressed;
infrastructure priorities identified by the villagers to people have not adequately regained their
contribute to medium-term community growth by livelihoods and many face a debt trap that
has been exacerbated by the effects of the
increasing access to key economic and social community cyclone: interest rates are 5-25 per cent per
landmarks such as schools, monasteries, and public month and new credit is very scarce. Landless
labourers, and big farmers, have both been
markets. disadvantaged in aid flows. This is significant
both for a highly vulnerable group, and for a
The consistent community engagement by the ASEAN volunteers paved group that can offer them livelihoods through
the way to address other village concerns, which was beyond the project’s work opportunities (up to two-thirds of farm
mandates, particularly pest infestation in at least three villages of the village jobs have been lost)”.
tract. Guided by IDE/M technical specialists, majority of the farmers in the
village tract were oriented in proper pest control. Moreover, a trial drip Project’s Livelihood Packages included:
irrigation system was also installed in some farm plots to demonstrate the
usage and advantages of a drip irrigation system. 1. Livelihood package for farm households
a. Rice paddy farmers
Approaches • Hand power tiller and diesel fuel
• Fertilizer bag distribution
Committed to a community-led approach, the ASEAN volunteers ensured
• IDE/M foot operated pump distribution
community participation and feedback about the project’s activities by
undertaking periodic needs assessment and progress monitoring surveys.
b. Vegetable growers
• Vegetable seeds distribution
The ASEAN volunteers were also actively involved in facilitating consultation
• Fertilizer bag distribution
meetings among the villagers and local village authorities to debate among • IDE/M foot operated pump distribution
themselves and identify their priority infrastructures, daily wages for labourers,
choice of accountability information materials and construction plans. 2. Livelihood package for landless
• Wage employment through farm work
• Wage employment through
infrastructure-building activities
Distribution of agricultural inputs assisted in stimulating the cyclone-
disrupted agricultural productivity of the village tract.
a. 1,100 acres of paddy were prepared harvested. Approximately 224,672
aided by the 11 hand power tillers and USD * of total income may be
255 gallons of diesel fuel provided by generated for the whole village
the project. tract or 476 USD* per household.
b. Distributed 1,152 fertilizer bags to 472 c. Provided vegetable seed packets
rice paddy farmers, which cultivated to 170 vegetable growers, which
approximately 944 acres of paddy. about 34,000 USD* of total income
An estimated 103,840 baskets (2,160 could be generated for the village
metric tons) of rice paddy could be tract or 200 USD* per household.

* Estimated market value (2008) as indicated by the villagers (1 USD = 1,000 Myanmar Kyats).

<< ASEAN Volunteers in partnership with IDE/M staff facilitated the distribution
fertilizers and pest control guides.

provided wage
Small-scale infrastructure-building activities
employment for the landless households from the village tract
and helped in improving the villagers’ access to important
village establishments.
Approximately 70 landless villagers participated to work for the infrastructure
activities with a daily wage of about two USD. The agreed wage rate was slightly
set lower than the existing market rate to ensure that the villagers who are most
in need of work would have the opportunity to earn a continuous daily wage
for the dry season.
“We never dreamed that our
bridge will be wooden with
In the construction of the small-scale infrastructures; the villagers, as project concrete foundation. It not only
implementers, were heavily engaged in the process of prioritising their needs,
connected two villages, but also
in deciding on their working and rest hours, and in facilitating the purchase
of proper local materials. our families and our livelihoods.
I will always remember the
a. Tha Leik Gyi - improved the road connecting the monastery and the faces and smiles of the ASEAN
farthest part of the village to the main Pyapon highway.
volunteers; they are engraved in
b. Tha Leik Kalay - improved the road connecting the monastery and a part
of the village to the main Pyapon highway. my heart every time I use and
c. Mae Nyo - improved the village’s main farm-to-market road. see the bridge... ”
d. Tha Leik Chaung and Tha Leik Too Myaung - connected the two villages
through repairing a footbridge.
e. Poe Swar - connected the villagers to its primary school and to Tha Leik - Daw Thein Myint, 66 years old,

Gyi village through the construction of two footbridges. a villager in Tha Leik Chaung.
Remembering the ASEAN volunteers
through the improved footbridge
connecting Tha Leik Chaung and Tha Leik
Too Myaung villages.
“When I was four years old, I was Distribution of pest control guides and installation of a trial drip irrigation
very embarrassed that the people
system facilitated knowledge-sharing among the farmers
are walking on our muddy road
and technical specialists. Through a needs assessment, pest control
going to the monastery. Now, I guides were distributed to the farmers and a trial drip irrigation system was
am forty, I am very happy that installed and demonstrated with the help of IDE/M technical staff.
we renovated our road with the
Volunteers and IDE/M. We have fostered community
The small-scale infrastructure priorities
not only improved our small road empowerment and volunteerism. The formation of informal
for our livelihoods but also regain committees in each village promoted a shared sense of responsibility,
our community pride.” ensured the participation of women, and created a venue for interaction
and cooperation among the ASEAN volunteers, villagers, local village
- Khin Maung Win, Labour Leader, a villager

authorities, and the village tract heads.

in Tha Leik Kalay.

“Before then, we were like
blind people living in the dark.
With the flyer information,
we can now look ahead and
anticipate any problems...”

The ASEAN volunteers involvement in this TCG-endorsed project is a crucial initial

step in realising an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community in the region. Living with
the villagers served as an opportunity for the volunteers from different ASEAN
member countries to share their respective cultures and also to assess the actual
needs and concerns of the communities.

It is evident from the ASEAN volunteers’ experience that the essential success
factor in community integration lies on involving the villagers from
the planning phase, which also includes coordination with local
authorities and other existing humanitarian agencies working with
the communities. The consistent engagement of villagers through mass meetings
have encouraged more community ownership and collaborative actions.

The formation of informal village committees strengthens villagers’ sense “The best thing about this
of ownership of the infrastructures built, thereby promoting medium-term project is that the ASEAN
sustainability of the project’s outcomes.
volunteers are living together
Civil society partnerships with ASEAN and TCG served as a vital mechanism in our village... somehow
to help empower the villagers. IDE/M contributed not only their expertise in they know what we really
livelihoods development but also their local knowledge on community approaches need, our concerns as part
and practices.
of our families. I will always
Accountability and transparency ensured to promote proper coordination, trust remember their strong
and confidence among the villagers, local authorities and other humanitarian commitment to rebuild
agencies. The ASEAN volunteers and IDE/M were involved in developing and our villages through mass
distributing information materials stated in the local language. Information details meetings. The villagers now
include verified beneficiaries, what is the activity, and contact details for proper
feedback. Community accountability banners, identified by the communities,
are more active in community
were also installed to reflect total cost, target period of completion, construction consultation activities.”
supplies and contact details.

- U Maung Naing, Tha Leik Gyi Village

Tract Leader. Recognising the efforts of
the Project and the ASEAN Volunteers.
Looking Forward

ASEAN People-Centred Case Study in Southeast Asia,

As indicated in the TCG Post-Nargis farmers, landless households and a series of thematic knowledge-sharing tool, is an
Periodic Review I, “recovery will technical specialists. evidence-based documentation and analysis on how
take several years both because of the Peoples of ASEAN are brought at the centre of the
the types of loss suffered and the The possible and existing linkages communities to promote an ASEAN Socio-Cultural
and access to micro-credit could be community.
breadth of the need.” There is still a
need for continuous distribution of strengthened among the established
It highlights the “process of ASEAN integration and
agricultural inputs and infrastructure village committees to further promote community building, which all sectors of society are
development activities to stimulate accountability and sustainability. encouraged to participate in, and benefit from” (ASEAN
agricultural productivity in the cyclone- Charter Article 1.13). The purpose of the case studies is
to disseminate possible good practices and share vital
affected areas and facilitate longer- Assistance to potential or alternative lessons learned across the Southeast Asian region.
term livelihood recovery of small-plot livelihoods could be explored to
farmers and landless labourers. stimulate more economic productivity The case studies re-affirm the “shared commitment and
collective responsibility in enhancing regional peace,
in the cyclone- affected village tract, security and prosperity” (ASEAN Charter Article 2.2b).
The establishment of information and especially to empower women-headed It aims to enable the ASEAN community in acquiring
feedback mechanisms in the village households and other vulnerable and adapting innovative ideas of what type of initiatives
tract regarding appropriate pest groups. could be feasible in a given context; and to assist the
control, proper fertilizer usage, and region in identifying the outcomes, benefits as well as
other good agricultural practices could Consistent capacity building on the constraints when undertaking such an initiative.
be a possible built-in intervention in practical community early warning Rebuilding Small Farm Livelihoods during the Dry
all future projectss. systems, disaster-resilient homes and Season. People-Centred Case Study Issue 1. April
climate adaptive farms is a crucial 2009. English version. This case study was developed
Local farm schools could be next step towards reducing risks from based on credible references stated herein, a series of
established to facilitate coordination natural hazards and future disasters. field interviews among the villagers and testimonials
and knowledge-sharing among from the ASEAN Volunteers during and after project
implementation. It is dedicated to the Peoples of Tha
REFERENCES Leik Gyi village tract.
ASEAN Volunteers’ Tha Leik Gyi Bi-weekly Reports 2008-2009.
Coordinating Office for the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force for the Cyclone Nargis. ASEAN’s Post-Nargis Written by the ASEAN Volunteers:
Humanitarian Assistance Fact Sheet. Un Bunneng (Cambodia)
Debbie Aung Din Taylor. (2002, November 22). “Signs of Distress: Observations on Agriculture, Poverty, Tar Blut Bwe Moo (Myanmar)
and the Environment in Myanmar”, Conference on Burma Reconciliation in Myanmar and the Crises of Khin Thazin Myint (Myanmar)
Change, School of Advanced International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C.
Kyi Phyu Win Thant (Myanmar)
Debbie Aung Din Taylor. (2005, April 05). “Reducing Poverty through Smallholder Agriculture in Burma/
Myanmar: What can be done?” Challenges and Opportunities: Providing Assistance to People in Burma/
Ruby Bernardo Pineda (Philippines)
Myanmar, EU Burma Day 2005 Conference, Brussels, Belgium. Dwight Jason Magro Ronan (Philippines)
Palmstrom, Becky (2009, February 9 to 15). “Food output on rise, says report” from The Myanmar
Times. Technical and editorial inputs by:
Project Proposal for the TCG Pilot Village Tract: Rebuilding Small Farm Livelihoods during the Dry Season. Philipp Danao, AHTF Hub Coordinator
(2008, October 31).
Than Htike Oo & Myo Myo. (2009, February 9 to 15). “Experts push for assistance to paddy farmers” Contributors:
from The Myanmar Times. Natthinee Rodraksa, AHTF Operations Manager
Tripartite Core Group. (2008, July). Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA). Mai Tang, AHTF Communications Officer
Tripartite Core Group. (2008, December). Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan. Kyaw Myat Tha (Kenny), AHTF Technical Officer
Tripartite Core Group. (2008, December). Post-Nargis Periodic Review I.
Mahn Thaik Tun, AHTF Hub Officer
Tripartite Core Group. (2008, December). Social Impacts Monitoring I.
With support and guidance from:
Adelina Kamal, Head of Disaster Management &
Humanitarian Assistance Division
Dr. William Sabandar, Special Envoy of the ASEAN
Secretary-General for Post Nargis Recovery in
Myanmar/ Chief Technical Advisor
Dr. Niken Gandini, AHTF Senior Technical Advisor
Wanna Suksriboonamphai, AHTF Coordinator

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For inquiries, contact: Catalogue-in-Publication Data Photo credits: ASEAN Volunteers and IDE/M 2009.
Public Outreach and Civil Society Division
The ASEAN Secretariat Rebuilding Small Farm Livelihoods during the
70A Jalan Sisingamangaraja Dry Season This project is implemented by the Peoples of Tha Leik
Jakarta 12110, Indonesia Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, July 2009 Gyi village tract, in partnerships with the Tripartite
Phone : (62 21) 724-3372, 726-2991 Core Group (TCG), ASEAN Volunteers and International
Fax : (62 21) 739-8234, 724-3504 338.16 Development Enterprise-Myanmar (IDE/M).
E-mail : public.div@asean.org 1. ASEAN – Disaster Management
2. Production Efficiency - Agricultural Productivity
Coordinating Office of the ASEAN Humanitarian
Task Force ISBN 978-602-8411-11-0
Chatrium Hotel, 40 Natmauk Road
Tamwe Township, Yangon, Myanmar Copyright ASEAN Secretariat 2009.
Phone : (95) (0) 1-544500 All rights reserved.
Fax : (95) (0) 1-549933